LCT VISIT SERIES: I stopped in at Monalisa Limousine on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles last Friday. The owners attended their first International LCT Show in February, but these operators clearly are not novices. A look at their operations and practices reveal that they would be qualified to teach some of the seminars at the Show, given their hyper-focus on consistent customer service and rooting out any devils in the details.
Mona Marandy and her brother, Amir Marandy, both VPs of operations and COO and CFO respectively, run the business day to day that was founded by their father, President Ben Marandy, in 2004 with one sedan. Ben is a former airport shuttle operator who would always put his cash tips back into the vehicles and his service. He still works and leads the family business, but prefers the quiet but busy background, with his children being the face and the front of the business. All of them leave their immaculate Mediterranean-themed luxury offices when needed, with Amir occasionally chauffeuring and Mona doubling as an airport greeter at LAX.
In case you are wondering, the name Monalisa comes from Mona and their sister, Lisa, who works in another field. The name is perfect for the Los Angeles scene, which spans entertainment, the arts and a wealthy clientele that likes to make statements with the finer things in life. And that Monalisa expression best sums up the approach for a limousine company: Pleasant, low-key, a bit understated and reserved with a sense of mystery and style.
Mona and Amir come across as sharp executives who don’t miss a beat, with a keen eye and ear for nuances. With a French-Persian background and high school years spent in Los Angeles, they speak impeccable English with elegant accents, suitable to interacting with an upscale clientele in one of the most diverse and global cities in the world. Any prospective employee facing a job interview with Mona should be very well prepared and mannered. She knows how to ask tough questions and get to the point quickly.
During our visit, I picked up on several creative ideas and practices, which may be in use by other companies, but certainly grabbed my attention as an LCT editor.
As expected, a chauffeured transportation company in Los Angeles handles entertainment executives, celebrities, V.I.P.s, and wealthy clients whose nights out routinely include a limousine or limo bus. Monalisa Limousine has 15 vehicles, including four Krystal Town Car stretches, a Cadillac Escalade, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Town Cars, and a limo bus. [On the subject of replacing the Town Cars, the Marandy family is undecided on what to buy, as is the case for many limousine operators nationwide].
But unlike some of the typical attitude you get in L.A., the Marandys make sure every client is a V.I.P. Here are some of the details I noted during my visit:
- The vehicles parked in their garage all had checklist sheets tucked under the wiper blades. Every chauffeur must go through the checklist for every trip, no matter how short or brief the previous trip in the vehicle was. Everything inside and outside must be copasetic before the wheels roll.
- Among the checks are the interior vanity mirrors. In particular, chauffeurs must look for and wipe away any fingerprints. “You don’t want the client to think, ‘Did someone just sit here?’” Mona Marandy said.
- Monalisa keeps detailed lists of client habits and preferences, i.e. the client who is diabetic who must have the sugar-free Red Bull in the car. “Clients expect certain things. If they didn’t, they could call a taxi company. Here, clients have high expectations,” Mona said.
- Dispatchers are trained to be matchmakers, making sure certain personality type chauffeurs mesh with the personalities of clients. That way, a client who likes to stay quiet and not be engaged is coupled with a chauffeur who isn’t too chatty. The best clients are the repeat ones who like their chauffeurs.
- Amir Marandy, a former professional tennis player who now also coaches tennis, applies his rigorous training principles to the company’s employee policies and practices: Consistency and repetition achieved through adding new skills while continuously layering in the basic ones.
- Fuel tanks must always be full on any vehicle leaving on a run, even if the previous trip only depleted the tank by five miles worth of fuel. Mona insists on seeing the fuel receipts of chauffeurs returning vehicles for the next run, “even if the receipt is just for $4 worth of gas.”
- Chauffeurs can wear solid ties only; no patterns, no stripes. No cologne and no jewelry, either. They must stay classy and consistent with quality black suits and crisp ties.
- The company uses only premium beverages in limousines, i.e. no Absolut Vodka, Grey Goose only. No generic liquor brands, period.
One related note: Mona said she is at times aghast at the lack of vehicle quality and slipshod appearance of some of the one-car operators who stop by wanting to be an affiliate: “When I inspect the vehicle, the overall look is offensive. . . What are they thinking when their company name is all over the vehicle?”
The Marandys prove how the most successful operations in the limousine industry find a way to apply their unique experiences, observations and creativity. The key lesson here is to organically build a customer service repertoire that reflects the needs and desires of the clients. — Martin Romjue, LCT editor
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